Corie: Man alive did I underestimate this mountain- both in its sheer beauty and its overall difficulty. We had the smallest sliver of a weather window and we bolted at the chance to try to climb this mountain after being foiled during our previous attempt by horrendous conditions. We elected to try the climb in 2 days and were excited to spend a night camping in the snow for the first time since Middle Sister in June.
The five mile ski into camp was a definite challenge given that there were even more fallen trees blocking the road than there had been during our previous attempt. It was also drizzling steadily up until about 9pm and I quickly discovered that my shell was NOT waterproof (see my gear review and following retraction here). I was miserable by the time I was safely inside my sleeping bag helping Andy make dinner (delicious vegan chili mac- recipe to come soon!) and was apprehensive about what the next day would bring. If we had even the slightest amount of precip, we couldn't go on since I was officially without a dry top layer. So, we fell asleep and both hoped that the weather would hold for the morning.
We were in luck. The following morning was dry and clear and we started skiing up the trail with haste. By the time we hit the top of the treeline, we were standing under clear skies staring at the COOLEST terrain- it was like we were staring at a baby Himalayan peak. However, the snow was fresh and deep and we moved carefully across the closest bowl to gain the ridge and stay clear of avalanche danger. I had swapped to snow shoes in the trees and found myself sinking to my knees even with their added floatation. Once we gained the ridge, we switched into crampons and began climbing- up and over ice and rocks and hard snow. Steep consolidated snow lead to icy stretches of mixed climbing which lead to waist deep patches of snow. The wind rose and the clouds began to roll in. By the time we reached the summit (there are a few summits to reach), we were forced to hide behind icy gargoyles to escape the wind which had become very fierce at that point. We scrambled and slid down to our ski stash as quickly as possible and I started down, retracing our steps to stay within the safe confines of the trees.
One mistep at 6,500', however, and the snow was sliding all around me- big, fat slabs were sliding from above me and beneath me and around me and soon a small slide was rolling down the slope toward the trees. Somehow, ice axe driven deep into the snow that remained beneath me, I stayed on my feet. Petrified, I called up to Andy and we found a new, safer way back into the trees, moving swiftly to get back to camp and ski out to the truck before dark. Unfortunately, the sun had softened the snow even more and I, newbie skier that I am, struggled significantly to make good progress back down and by the time we made it back to the truck, we were happy (to be done and have had success) and exhausted (from 20 hours of moving time over the two days and nearly 19 miles of breaking trail in fresh, untracked snow). I'm excited to go back and hit all of its beautiful peaks- after I've forgotten about all the suffering.
Andy: Diamond Peak is hard in the winter. At least, it was hard for me. It's a long approach no matter how you do it. Approach #1 is from Willamette Pass, moving south on the PCT for about 9 miles, then branching off on climber's trails to access routes on the north and east aspects. Deterred from this 20 miles round trip endeavor, and wanting to climb a route on the west side of the peak, we opted for approach #2. This approach starts by driving forest service roads around Hills Creek Dam, up to road 2149, and finally to the Corrigan Lake trailhead. On a map, this TH puts you about 3 miles from the summit. Piece of cake, right? On the ground, deep snow and fallen trees in the winter will force a much longer approach. We managed to get to the Indigo Creek campground, which was about 6 miles from Corrigan Lake TH. Luckily travel by skis or snowshoes on a road with 3' of snow is relatively quick, but the numerous fallen trees slowed us down and dictated some cumbersome detours. Once most of the snow melts and the logs are removed, this approach would be a cakewalk. I bet that in the spring, Diamond Peak from this side would make for excellent ski tours with quick and easy access to beautiful backcountry lines.
The TH didn't present as much, buried under many feet of snow, but a trail sign did exist and we bushwhacked up a ravine, and crested a ridge, to find Corrigan Lake below. A GPS was handy as the peak can't be seen until about a mile away, in clear conditions. However, we found much of the navigation to be fairly straight forward and intuitive, despite no sign of a trail. Corrigan Lake was beautiful in it's winter coat, and the terrain became even more magnificent as we approached the summit. The very difficulties that make these "remote" peaks so challenging are also the same factors that leave these locations isolated and wild. We didn't see a soul for two days, and selfishly absorbed the splendor that blue skies in the middle of winter bring. The terrain on the west side of the peak is unreal. I could spend a week up there skiing different lines. Unfortunately, the avalanche danger was very high, and as Corie indicated above, we came a little too close for comfort at some points. We plodded carefully along ridges and less risky terrain down to the treeline, where some good turns where found, albeit cautiously. I would definitely climb this peak again, although I would be very tempted to wait until the roads were cleared, perhaps in April or May. That being said, there is a certain allure to winter missions in the backcountry and I won't soon forget the experience.
Equipment List- Southwest Ridge via Road
- 2 liters of water each.
- Mountaineering/ski boots
- 1st Aid Kit + various other essentials
- 4 season tent
- Sleeping bags and pads
- Ski poles
Detailed maps and GPS data can be found on View Ranger-
Climb to Summit
Starting Elevation: 2,762'
Final Elevation: 8,546'
Elevation Gain: 5,784'
Mileage to Camp: 5
Mileage Camp to Summit: 4.3
Mileage Roundtrip: 18.6
Time Truck to Camp: 5:03
Time Camp to Summit: 7:45
Total Moving Time (over two days): 20 hrs